Co-op student of the year discovers passion for civil engineering

David Visentin, a third-year Civil Engineering Technology student, is recognized as the 2024 Co-op Student of the Year. David’s diverse career background and desire to find a career that fueled his passions led him to Georgian.  

Why did you choose to study at Georgian? 

Georgian’s reputation for having one of the highest job placement rates after graduation and employer satisfaction rates among Ontario colleges was a key factor. As a mature student, I knew I wanted the best experience for my education that would make me more competitive and desirable for future employers and Georgian was the perfect choice.   

What drew you to the Civil Engineering Technology program? 

I have a diverse career background in accounting and culinary but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to try out next. I kept my options open and after getting some great advice, I completed a Myers-Briggs Test. My results didn’t include my previous careers and instead were engineering-focused.  

I wasn’t familiar with the different types of engineering and what they would look like as a profession. To learn more about program options, I connected with an Employer Relations Consultant at Georgian who mentioned there’s always more jobs available than graduates in civil engineering. Then, I spoke to the Coordinator of the Civil Engineering program who patiently explained what civil engineering was and what kind of career opportunities would be available. After meeting with both who spoke with such passion and pride, I knew this program was the right fit.  

How does it feel to be named Co-op Student of the Year? 

I can’t believe I was even considered for this award. I have such brilliant and passionate classmates who truly inspire me daily and who could have had the same award presented to them. I’ve loved every minute of my experience at Georgian and during both my co-op terms. I’ve been very fortunate to have had so much support at every turn in the past three years, and I’m so grateful for this honour.  

Where did you complete your co-op term and what did you like best about it? 

I completed both of my co-op terms at the City of Barrie. The City of Barrie is such a huge influence for Georgian and it has been a long and rewarding partnership.  They were just awarded the Board of Governors’ Award of Distinction – Community Partner for 2023.  

What I liked best was The City of Barrie team – it isn’t a coincidence that they employ many Georgian grads. The Infrastructure department where I worked, is comprised of many talented and supportive individuals and has the culture and environment that I’ve been searching for. My first supervisor during my four-month term was Rachel Graham, an Engineering Project Manager and David Rockey, an Engineering Inspector. They took every opportunity to show me the ropes and didn’t mind when I tripped over them from time to time.   

During my second co-op term, Nathanael Couperus pushed me to get the most out of my experience. Halfway through my eight-month co-op term, a permanent role as an Engineering Inspector came up; it was a long shot since I hadn’t graduated yet and needed to gain more work experience. After having time and effort invested in me during my co-op terms, I thought I might have a chance – I took that chance, put myself out there and I got it! Instead of finishing my term as a co-op student, I’d be starting as a full-time permanent Engineering Inspector. 

What types of projects or tasks did you work on during co-op? 

As an Engineering Inspector, I had several responsibilities: 

  • Conducting day-to-day field oversight and inspection of municipal infrastructure construction. 
  • Ensuring construction work was completed in compliance with contract drawings and documents. 
  • Advising on the best course of action to solve issues resulting from inquiries, requests or complaints. 
  • Ensuring construction activities are properly inspected and maintain a level of quality. 
  • Building and maintaining effective relationships with contractors, developers, and other stakeholders. 

I was also specifically involved with the inspection for recent Mapleview, Sunnidale and Blake Street construction projects. 

What was the most challenging part of your co-op experience? 

With engineering, the scope of work and experience needed to effectively perform your role can be daunting. As a mature student, it’s been assumed I may know more than I do. Georgian prepared me for these experiences but there have also been conversations that I’ve become lost in pretty quickly. Being able to ask for clarification in those situations is humbling, but necessary when you’re trying to get the most out of your co-op. My team has always been more than understanding and supportive, guiding me in the right direction without making me feel ashamed for not knowing something. 

What skills from your Georgian program did you apply on the job? 

Almost every course I took in one way or another has provided me with the skills to be more effective in the field. Our program is so finely honed, I was able to apply knowledge or experience from all of my courses.  

What did you learn on co-op that you can’t in the classroom? 

Being in the field, you need to be resourceful and plan ahead. As an inspector, you need to be aware of many standards, whether at the municipal or provincial level. Doing your homework and researching ahead of time goes a long way in preparing yourself. Also, acting as an ambassador for the City of Barrie when I’m in public is something I hold in the highest regard. Being able to communicate effectively and professionally with the residents of Barrie is so important and appreciated. I’m sure it’s fair to say that construction can pose a significant annoyance to residents, and they just need to blow off some steam. Being understanding and empathetic to their concerns has been an invaluable growth opportunity. 

What do you hope to do after graduating from Georgian? 

I’m currently in a permanent role with the City of Barrie doing my dream job already – I couldn’t be happier and can’t wait to contribute as much as I can in this role. My direct supervisor Contract Administrator Jennifer Whittley has been instrumental in building my engineering skills and developing my overall skills as an engineering professional. I’m excited to continue in the role and with the City of Barrie for many years to come.   

I’d also like to continue my time on the Program Advisory Committee for Civil Engineering, to help future students with improvements to the program. 

Any advice for future co-op students or future Georgian students? 

“Balance. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to succeed or get perfect on all your tests and assignments. Take a break from studying from time to time and take advantage of opportunities on campus. Get involved by cheering on one of our sports teams, joining a club, mentoring another student or drop in to an organized social event. Get your head out of the books for a while and enjoy life. Chances are when you return to studying, it won’t seem as daunting as it was before.

This is an important one: don’t be afraid to ask questions and admit when you don’t know something. As students, we aren’t expected to know everything. Our goal is to learn and I’ve found that most people respond well when you are genuinely interested. 

I couldn’t let an opportunity like this go by without mentioning my time on the Board of Governors as the Student Representative. This was one of my most memorable and rewarding experiences at the college so far. I wanted to learn how a successful college operates and remains competitive in the industry and I wasn’t disappointed. As a board member, I was able to see the consistent effort and planning that goes into maintaining our top-notch reputation, led by our ever-enthusiastic President Kevin Weaver, who is the real deal in every way. This is a role that I would recommend to future students. 

Three individuals posing for a photo with an award.

From left Georgian College President and CEO, Kevin Weaver, David Visentin and Board Chair Mary-Ann Willsey

Co-op student of the year

David and his sons Gabriel and Everett.

About the Co-op Student of the Year award 

The Co-op Student of the Year award is presented to a full-time student in a co-operative education program who has demonstrated remarkable achievements in academic and co-op terms. 

Our categories